Return to Busytown


“If your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book, I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary,” said Tim Kreider in 2012, his point being that most modern jobs are as pointless as they are dull.

Well, Tom the Dancing Bug has responded by showing how a Richard Scarry book might look if Busytown had been populated by the kind of dot-eyed, uncreative twerps they’d like us to be.

Remember, this is not inevitable! You can do anything you fancy! Life is absurd! You are free!

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William Morris at the NPG

In an excellent piece about William Morris for our forthcoming eleventh issue, Justin Reynolds mentions a Morris exhibition currently at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Alas, by the time the magazine is in your hands, the exhibition will be almost over. So I’m mentioning it now.

William Morris: Anarchy and Beauty will be at the National Portrait Gallery until 11th January 2015. Sounds like it might be worth a look if you’re nearby.

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Can Quitting Your Job Help Stop War?

I love it when treadmill types are bowled over by the idea that a modest income doesn’t necessarily mean a life of wretched poverty.

Think, people. Curb your insatiability. Take responsibility for how you spend and earn money. Develop a moral code. Above all, live well.

Here’s New Escapologist contributor David Gross profiled in the Atlantic:

When he first started his experiment, Gross assumed he’d have to live in poverty to avoid paying federal taxes. He thought about living in a fire spotting tower to pay the rent, and resigned himself to a life of rice and ramen, and “a path of deprivation, sacrifice, and renunciation in the service of my values”.

But then he started doing some research. He knew he wanted to set aside some money for retirement, and that he could probably find enough contract work to earn as little or as much as he wanted, up to the salary he had been receiving.

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Lockpicking Imaginary Handcuffs

HOUDINI2-356x500The fine fellows of the Mountain Shores (Un)Productivity Podcast had me on as a guest.

I was there ostensibly to promote Escape Everything! but we had far more fun than that. We talked about Houdini, humor writing, self-help, daily routines, Tim Ferriss, Jon Ronson, Russell Brand, Jane Austin, Henry Miller, David Graeber and many others. Ears must have been burning all over. Not that yours will when you listen, of course. Tune in. It’s a great podcast.

★ Tired of the everyday grind? Pre-order the New Escapologist book today.

Two articles on Quitting

There must be something in the air. Two mainstream press articles about quitting boring jobs.

From the Atlantic:

My friends sometimes approach me with career anxieties, under the false impression that writing about economics makes somebody a good career advisor. My counsel is typically something like optimistic incrementalism. Don’t quit your job, mastery comes with time, job satisfaction comes with mastery… that sort of stuff. […] I never said it outright, but I assumed that my cautious approach was more responsible […] but according to a new study of youth unemployment […] my incrementalist advice, while appropriate for the worst periods of the Great Recession, isn’t so great, overall.

From the BBC:

many of us aren’t happy in our jobs. Only 53% of US workers surveyed by online job-search website, said they liked or loved their jobs, while in France that dropped to 43% and in Germany, to 34%. With discontent that high, at what point does it make sense to leave a boring job and find one that not only pays you well and gives you perks, but also makes you happy?

★ Tired of the everyday grind? Pre-order the New Escapologist book today.

Working hard cannot solve an economic crisis

There has never been a time when capitalism existed without the exploitation of most people, most of the time. My classmates weren’t necessarily aware of this historical detail, but they were aware that working for a living was unlikely to bring them what they want and need. They didn’t aspire to greater job security because their aspirations didn’t focus on work. They were tentative about admitting this at first. That’s understandable, in a country where politicians of all hues claim that being a member of a “hardworking family” is a criterion of citizenship. Yet as my classmates slowly began to admit, most people don’t see hard work as a virtue. Their aspirations focus on getting more leisure: time to spend with family and friends, doing things they consider worthwhile. That might be childcare, but it might equally be creative or craft work.

This is from a must-read essay by social historian Selina Todd, in which she reflects upon her former classmates–now in their thirties–and their current attitudes to work and leisure.

They dreamed of winning the lottery – and concurred that they’d use the money to leave work, spend more time with family, and ensure their children didn’t have to work for a living.

This is a sensible attitude. Hard work causes stress, poor health and early death – above all, it has never solved poverty. We work longer hours now than we’ve done for fifty years, yet the gap between the rich and poor has never been wider. Working hard cannot solve an economic crisis. The fact we are all expected to work so hard is in fact a result of economic crisis: a crisis that did not appear in 2008, but has been with us far longer. This is the crisis at the heart of capitalism: a tension between the 1 percent who control the economy, and want to continually increase their wealth, and the rest of us, who are expected to work ever harder, in order to generate profit and to keep us from occupying our time in meaningful ways like questioning or challenging the status quo.

★ Tired of the everyday grind? Pre-order the New Escapologist book today.

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